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Screenagers: Report and Resources

Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Joe, Pat, and Elizabeth
Practice putting down your cell phone like Joe, Pat, and Elizabeth!

Burgundy families were offered a screening of the film Screenagers on Sunday, May 7, which which was attended by about 50 adults and 30 students. In recent years we have periodically invited outside experts on internet safety to speak to our community about similar issues, but this film was particularly valuable in its focus on the strains on family life created by the rapid proliferation of digital devices.

Some of the issues presented in the film include:

  • The struggle faced by schools from the distraction of mobile devices (particularly smartphones).
  • The negative effects excessive screen time and visual stimulation may be having on developing brains.
  • The data suggesting that computing devices at home can actually decrease academic success, particularly when the device use is not supervised.
  • The ways in which our devices "pull" our attention, and similarities between internet addiction and other forms of addiction.
  • The social pressure faced by girls to focus on their appearance in establishing an online persona and the pressure to present a pretty or "sexy" image.
  • The struggle faced by parents and guardians in trying to establish clear but reasonable guidelines for children to ensure a healthy balance between their lives online and offline.

Some of the parenting strategies advocated by the film include:

  • If you are considering giving your child a smartphone, first consult the Cell Phone Parenting resources published by Common Sense Media.
  • Create an internet use (and/or device use) agreement with your child, which gives clear guidelines for acceptable use. Some of the goals of this agreement would involve limiting distraction, giving priority to school work, ensuring adequate sleep, and practicing proper etiquette during face-to-face interactions (see our Cyber Resources for Families document for examples and suggestions).
  • Be loving, but firm and consistent. Always explain your reasons for placing limits on the use of digital devices.
  • Adults should also examine the ways they may be setting a bad example in terms of excessive screen time and allowing themselves to be distracted by their devices.

Some strategies that we suggest for children include:

  • Create a space for doing homework that is as free from technology temptations as possible (for example you might put your phone on airplane mode).
  • If you have your own smartphone, consider installing Forest or one of a similar group of apps which help to improve focus and concentration.
  • Consider organizing an “unplugged” social event where your friends either don’t bring their phones or agree to give them to the supervising adult during the event.

Unfortunately, Screenagers is not available for viewing online or available for purchase. However, we hope Burgundy families will continue to discuss the issues raised by this film and explore ways to address them in our community. If you are interested in being part of that discussion, please contact Joe Peacock.